What Changed the Minds of the Vaccine Hesitant?

Survey Results Fielded From Dec. 16 to July 30

Man unsure about getting vaccinated.

Brianna Gilmartin / Verywell

Key Themes From Our Survey

  • More than a quarter of vaccinated survey respondents said they were previously against taking the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The risks of COVID-19 eventually swayed most vaccine-hesitant people to get the shot.
  • Americans are increasingly worried about virus variants and the state of the pandemic.

Over the past few weeks, unvaccinated people have driven the pandemic surge, leading to more hospitalizations and cases nationwide. But even in the face of soaring cases, nearly 40% of the population is still not fully vaccinated.

According to Verywell Health's latest vaccine sentiment survey, more than a quarter—27%—of our vaccinated respondents said they were previously against getting the COVID-19 vaccine. What did it take to change their minds?

Among the converted, the top reason—chosen by 40% of respondents—for finally embracing the jab was the risk of COVID seemingly outweighing the risk of getting vaccinated.

Other converts say they just needed time to warm up to the idea. It’s now been nearly eight months since vaccines first rolled out. Over time, side effects have proven rare and effectiveness has remained strong.

The data presented in this article is from 15 surveys of 2,000 Americans asked about their thoughts and feelings towards getting the COVID-19 vaccines. We collected the latest data for the week ending on July 30. Our survey sample highlighted four types of respondents based on their answer to whether or not they’d get an FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine if it were free and available: 

  • Acceptors: Those who would agree to be vaccinated but have not yet
  • Rejectors: Those who would not agree to take a vaccine
  • Undecideds: Those who don’t know if they would take a vaccine
  • Vaccinated: Those who have received a COVID-19 vaccination

What Changes Minds About Vaccination?

Among our respondents that said they previously decided against vaccination, there was a generational divide. Millennials made up the highest proportion: 31% had once decided not to get vaccinated. Meanwhile, that number was smaller for Gen X and Gen Z.

Most survey respondents who did change their minds about the vaccines did so through a risk calculation: Getting COVID seemed riskier than getting vaccinated.

This reasoning is especially relevant now that the Delta variant is causing a surge in cases and hospitalizations nationwide. For the first time since February 2021, the U.S. is averaging 100,000 cases a day.

More than half of Americans who responded to our survey (53%) say they’re concerned about the new variant—12 points higher than last month. General concern about the pandemic is rising at the same pace. Simultaneously, there has been a drop of 6 points in the percentage of our respondents who feel safe from COVID-19.

The optimism many felt as states lifted COVID-19 restrictions at the start of the summer is also waning. Now, 60% of our respondents say they feel at least somewhat concerned that states are easing COVID-19 restrictions too early. This is 5 points higher than when we asked in May.

Concern is increasing around about communal workspaces, with 61% of workers (7 points higher than last month) being at least somewhat worried about returning to in-person work.

These renewed fears are driving vaccination rates higher. Florida, which set a new daily record for COVID hospitalizations, is seeing an uptick in vaccinations. In all 50 states, vaccination rates are rising—some even by 100%.

The Pressure’s on for Vaccine Mandates and Verification

This jump in vaccination also comes as employers increasingly implement vaccine mandates. Just this past week, cities like New York City and Chicago now require certain workers to get vaccinated. The federal government will be requiring employees to get the shot too, as well as military members.

Some states are implementing vaccine verification strategies to get ahead of Delta-induced surges. For example, New York City announced it would require proof of vaccinations for indoor activities, including dining, fitness, entertainment, and performances. 

It looks like Americans are open to this idea. Overall, 57% of Americans in our survey say they think people should have to prove they’ve gotten vaccinated, a 4 point increase from early June.

A Word From Verywell

People who are unvaccinated are not a monolith. There are many reasons someone may be hesitant about getting their COVID-19 vaccine shot. When talking to a friend or family member who is considering getting vaccinated, be prepared to open a dialogue, stay empathetic, and genuinely try to understand their worries. Focus on offering any help they may need—like offering a ride or watching their kids during their appointment. 

If you need help approaching these conversations, check out Verywell’s Healthy Conversation Coach, which can walk you through the right way to approach someone who's hesitant about getting vaccinated.

Methodology

The Verywell Vaccine Sentiment Tracker is a biweekly measurement of Americans’ attitudes and behaviors around COVID-19 and the vaccine. The survey is fielded online every other week. The total sample matches U.S. Census estimates for age, gender, race/ethnicity, and region. It consists of 1,000 Americans from December 16, 2020, until February 26, 2020, after which the sample size increased to 2,000 per wave.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page

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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID Data Tracker. Updated August 11, 2021.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID Data Tracker. Updated August 11, 2021.